Public safety: Wildfire codes needed to protect us

The recent brush fire burning up the West Hill, threatening homes should serve as a warning about the consequences of increasingly hotter, drier summers with fire season staring May 1 rather than mid-summer as it did just a few years ago.

Washington has no comprehensive wildland fire code to control vegetation near residences. Without proper fire breaks, trees and other plants literally guarantee wildfires will consume homes.

The National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Wise program and codes incorporate years of research in Alberta, Canada that can eliminate these threats. This summer California set a new record for its largest fire ever, breaking the old record set just last year. There are more than 550 wildfires burning in British Columbia today, contributing to the haze seen in our air. There have been at least a half-dozen firefighter fatalities and many serious burns this season. Washington has been relatively lucky this year.

The resources to confront a serious emergency are limited. Last winter’s Heritage Building fire in downtown Auburn took nearly all the resources available in South King County with numerous cities responding. It was reported another two-alarm fire in Federal Way and a fire in north Pierce County consumed the attention of other available units. There was no one to respond to another fire.

Please join me in encouraging our city, county and state officials to adopt reasonable and prudent wildfire codes to protect the urban interface and the lives of first responders.

– Bob Zimmerman

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